Public debate and discussion on Ottumwa pit bull ban at City Council meeting

OTTUMWA, Iowa (KYOU) – It’s been a long time. After an October petition garnering more than 1,000 signatures, Ottumwa Town Council met to hear from the public about the townwide pit bull ban. The ban has been in place since 2002, after a child died from a pit bull attack. A controversial subject for a council of which 80% of its members have only been in office for an average of one month.

While many of the petition’s creators and supporters were present at the meeting, so were those who opposed the removal of the pit bull ban. Both sides shared stories, good and bad, about pit bulls. One woman told how her Siberian Husky was killed by a pit bull, another how her pit bull had to be given away after a police call.

For those against, their arguments focused on broader issues than the dog breed itself. On the one hand, how the ban could deter some people from settling in Ottumwa. “Do we think anyone looking to relocate to Ottumwa would make the decision to move to our community if they had a beloved pet they would need to relocate to do so?” A supporter said.

Marcia McDaniel, who created the petition, says there are already pit bulls in the city and the ban is difficult to enforce. “Ottumwa’s ordinance actually gives the community a false sense of security, as it does not prevent the forbidden race from entering the town.”

Ottumwa Police Officer Jeff Williams, who responds to pitbull calls, spoke about his role and how identifying a pitbull can include viewing, a visit to the vet and, in many rare cases, a DNA test.

For those against, they discussed dangerous encounters with pit bulls. Former Ottumwa Town Council member Keith Caviness, who voted for the ban in 2002, says their decision may have saved lives. “I can tell you that we may have saved – maybe saved – the lives of several people, or at least [from] To be bitten.”

As for the council, few members gave their specific opinion on the issues. However, according to council member Marc Roe, this could be intentional. He asked the public to understand their hesitation when it comes to lifting the ban. “You are asking this city council to make a decision that if something bad happens as a result of this, you should walk away from it. This city council are the five people who [would] having a child’s blood on their hands if it happens again. However, Roe didn’t seem opposed to changing some of the bill’s wording to make it more enforceable.

The Board did not follow up on the ban, just the public hearing. City staff will likely discuss next steps before submitting a recommendation to Council for a vote.

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